J500 Media and the Environment

Primum non nocere by jillwilder14
October 26, 2008, 9:08 pm
Filed under: Business + Politics, Waste + Recycling | Tags: , , ,

Whip out the Latin dictionary before you go any further. It’s okay. I’ll wait.

Ok. Now that you know the phrase means do no harm. Let me tell you why it is important. The phrase has long been associated with health care and serves as a reminder for clinicians to evaluate intervention over potential harm. From what I can tell from Al Gore’s Internet, it looks as if this phrase is especially prominent in health care education.

I stumbled upon this article and I wanted to share it with each of you. It’s a quick read if you have a second. That said, the key takeaways are health care, by nature, creates a tremendous amount of waste. Ironic considering the health of our environment is directly related to our health. So why doesn’t the do no harm decree carry over to our environment? The author argues that nurses are ideal evangelists for green efforts. Based upon our field work thus far, I can’t say I agree.

The clinicans we spoke with understand the health of the enviroment is directly related to human health. However, the idea stops after the basic acknowledgement of the message. Health care professionals are much more equipped to communicate the dangers around drug interactions over clean energy at a cocktail party. Ultimately we found health care is just another business in that money talks. So while we’d like to think health care professionals are in the business to help people, that message doesn’t get a whole lot of reaction from this audience. Similarily to IBM’s commercials, cost savings and efficiency seem to be benefits health care professionals find it easier to get behind.

Now I don’t think health care professionals are in the business simply because they want to make a lot of money. I just think health care professionals are similar to Joe the Plumber, the everyday guy. They have a  hard time breaking the message of global climate change down into understandable elements they can do something with. Putting the cost-saving framing around it simply makes it more tangible and not so “out there.”

That said, if you are an ER nurse and you’re facing an emergency situation, you’re probably not going to be thinking about how you should recycle that or reuse this to save the hospital money. You’re thinking about how you can keep the patient from bleeding to death. Thus, our group is taking it up a level. Our next to do is to talk with administrators to determine if this audience is better equipped to make the first move. Maybe choosing different products or changing policies will help clinicians, who are on the front lines, do no harm to Mother Earth without having to choose.

Jill Wilder


3 Comments so far
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I think you’re right when you discuss how ER nurses are preoccupied with other things than climate change. But, that leaves all the other people at the hospital to work on! I understand that the administration might be more interested in the green bottom line than the green movement–but what about the others? Do you have any ideas on motivating the others, ie the nurses in pediatrics or the family practitioners? Might they be more receptive than the ER people, since they face less immediate crises?

Comment by susang09

ER nurses was just a vivid example that would be easy to understand. I didn’t intend to imply that all bets are off with respect to green efforts for other clinical positions/departments. I apologize for not being more clear. That said, I’ve had an opportunity to work in several hospitals all over the country (with Cerner) and appreciate clinicans have lots to do (take vitals, document vitals, dispense meds, document meds, etc). Thus, if the policies and processes are in place to help clinicians more easily make changes that help minimize their impact on the environment – you’re much more likely to get buy-in across the organization. I don’t think it is any different than Michelle’s comment about not recycling simply because she didn’t have the green bin. With school, work and life she just didn’t get around to it for a while. Now that she has the process in place, she is an avid recycler. Thus, providing folks with the tools and education to make that change will result in better acceptance. We aren’t limiting our scope to hospital administrators either. We are also including private practice doctors and nurse managers who have financial responsibility.

Comment by jillwilder14

Great post, Jill. I will say this: there is an intersection of caring for the environmental and caring for people. The organization Healthcare Without Harm is a great place to learn more.

Comment by j500

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